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Murray Assoc. Chosen for Library, Student Opinion Welcomed

Byline: Laura B. Hans

Posted: March 2, 2012

Earlier this month, an ad hoc library committee chose the architect, Murray Associates, P.C. for the John Stewart Memorial Library project. The committee formed specifically to select an architect with experience to maintain the integrity and character of the original building, while addressing modern library needs.

This committee includes: College President, Barbara Mistick; Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Students, Mary Hendrickson; Vice President of Finance and Administration, Brian Ecker and Library Director, Kathleen Murphy. Despite the committee’s timely selection process, there is still a long road ahead. "[W]e are still very early in the process and it is hard to estimate the completion date because we are still unsure of the scope of the project…I would expect the project could be completed towards the end of 2014 or early 2015," says Ecker.

The inability to immediately retrieve books presents issues for some students. "Next fall I start my thesis. I think that without a library it may make it more difficult for me with preliminary research. I won’t have that availability to easily access books. And I don’t think the public library will have that academic specialty," says Ian Downin ’13.

Murray Associates, P.C. chosen for experience in higher education

To minimize the inconvenience to students and faculty and expedite the process the selection process began as Mistick issued a request for proposal to potential bidders. The college gave the interested parties a tour of the library, so they understood the building and presenting issues. Within two weeks, the architects gave presentations on their past building projects showing what they could potentially do for Wilson. The committee decided on Murray Associates, P.C. based on how well the company worked with other institutions. The committee visited other buildings and then made their choice.

"The president notified Murray Associates that they had been selected… They will come here again with engineers in March with people from the firm and take a close look at the site. They need to know what’s under the ground, in the walls, everything and then draft a design," says Murphy.

Since the library moved to Sarah’s Coffee House, the number of library users increased. The library staff uses a people counter and found that from mid-October to November, the number of library users had doubled for that month from the previous year. The reason may be, "It’s a more inviting space. The temperature and humidity are maintained at a normal level and there is a 24/7 lab, which makes a huge difference," says Murphy.

While in use, the John Stewart Memorial Library did not offer a practical layout for students. Murphy’s hope for the renovated library includes a functional design including more open, inviting spaces and a coffee bar. "The front area would turn into a contemplative area for students to work and study and the back area will be a beehive of activity, [the learning commons]. There will be a transitional space, as a buffer between the two... There will be an information desk, but that will be minimal, as the librarians will rove more. They will be more accessible. IT will have a presence there... [as well as] academic support," says Murphy.

Students are most important patrons at library, says Murphy

"All candidates felt it was necessary to do focus groups on campus to find out what the people want and their expectations. Students are the most important patrons at the library. They would be paramount among the groups," explains Murphy.

Students search for library to suit their needs

WCGA resident counsel members are researching libraries and student union centers in the area to gather information concerning ideas and needs for the new library. WCGA Vice President, Rachael Kinley ‘13 says, "We collected information through surveys and found a need for better lighting and more student space. We need more common areas, especially with the loss of Sarah’s. I would like to see more up to date technology, computer rooms, seminar rooms and study areas."

According to Ecker, the project does not yet have a concrete budget. "We will be doing a fundraising campaign and hopefully donors will be willing to support that," he says. Concerning the general financial health of the college, "We have a solid financial position, and not unlike other colleges, there are challenges with the maintenance and improvements of programs and facilities" adds Eckert.

Committee members and campus opinion suggests that Murray Associates, P.C. is a good choice. "I was so impressed, the [current] building is a Carnegie neo-Gothic building with a prosaic rectangle plopped behind it. The architect blended the historic building with the back in a way that allowed the back part to be the learning commons. [Murray Associates] allowed it to be both modern and reflect the era of the original building. That said to us that he understood, that tradition is important here. But, we are looking for a modern building to meet the needs of modern students with our need for tradition that reflects history," says Murray.

Last Updated: February 23, 2013

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